OUTSIDE THE BOX
Go to your calendar and put a big circle around the date July 15. Note this day as the turning point for 2008.
No, this is not the date that prices on the Philippine Stock Exchange started up. No, this is not the date that gasoline prices went back to P40 a liter. No, this is not the date that saw inflation drop and economic growth go to 7 percent. But that date marks the start of all those favorable events.
This has been a tough week to be part of the US and European economies. The United States experienced its third-largest bank failure in history. Inflation rose to levels not seen in 27 years. The quasigovernment-owned mortgage lending institutions, Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.), went bankrupt. The US dollar hit a historic low against the euro. European industrial production fell the most in almost 16 years, with France alone down 2.6 percent. In Spain, new-car sales decreased by 31 percent in June, retail sales fell 5.3 percent while unemployment hit 9.9 percent.
There are several reasons you should be glad you are part of this economy.
The Philippine banking system is strong for the times the world is facing.
Much criticism, including from me, has been leveled at Filipino banks. It is a tightly controlled industry dominated by only a few banks. Bank-lending habits have been severe, particularly since 1997, and that has constrained the country’s economic growth at times.
Yet those factors are exactly why we will not face the situation that occurred in Thailand in 1997 and is occurring in the United States and Europe today. Smaller and potentially less solvent banks have been swallowed up by the giants. The failures in the Philippine banking system in the last decades are almost impossible now, given the size of the remaining banks. Further, the government does not have the same type of financial safeguards in place as in the United States that can provide a bailout and cushion for bad banking practices.
Our banks ratio and actual peso amount of nonperforming loans is very low and controlled due in large part to banks being very tight with their lending. The “pawn-shop” mentality of requiring very high collateral is a blessing is disguise. Our banks can weather these global financial storms better than in most nations.
The United States and, to a degree, the European financial problems, are caused by a bloated and unrealistic real-estate market. Property developers built too many units that went unsold, dragging down prices. Too much supply. Further, in consort with the banks, loans for property purchases were too easy, creating artificial buyers. Too little genuine demand.
Unlike in the West, Filipino property developers rarely break ground for a project until a substantial number of units are presold. This eliminates empty villages and empty towers of unsold units creating an oversupply. Thailand faced a glut of thousands of unsold condos when the crisis hit in 1997.
You cannot buy property in the Philippines with just a big smile and your signature, as in the United States. Philippine real-estate lenders require something uncommon in the West over the last few years: reasonable cash up-front. Yes, this type of tight lending does limit access to new and better housing to many Filipinos. But it helps keeps the financial system sound and solvent. Much better not to be able to afford a new house today than to lose everything buying something you cannot afford.
The collapse of the real-estate market in both the United States and Europe triggered much of the financial disaster that we are seeing now. From Reuters: Madrid, July 15: “The failure of Spain’s largest real-estate company Martinsa Fadesa may be the first in a string of high-profile property-sector collapses that hammer banks and propel the economy toward recession. Martinsa Fadesa was the first large publicly traded company to buckle under tighter lending conditions and a 30-percent drop in house sales this year. More failures are considered inevitable, and even necessary, given Spain’s heavy economic dependence on the construction and real-estate sectors.” Spain now has a surplus of 1.5 million new houses.
This kind of scenario will not happen in the Philippines.
Crude-oil prices are turning downward. Poor economic conditions are killing demand and oil prices will plummet. And that is the best reason to be glad you are a part of the Philippine economy. Our current high inflation and slower growth is due only to high oil prices. Our economy is otherwise strong and stable. Overseas remittances reach new records every month because no one wants to spend money in the West. Outsourcing continues to grow as the West looks for more cost-efficient locations to service their companies. Our exports are growing at a slower rate but still growing. In fact, receipts from exports to the United States actually increased by 2.7 percent to $657.6 million. Even with a large drop in electronic exports, the Philippines is still expected to show a balance-of-payments surplus of $2.5 billion for the year.
Don’t let the “gloom-and-doomers” get you down and affect your business plans. They are wrong. They either cannot understand the data or ignore the facts because these do not fit into their negative mindset. And by Christmastime, you won’t be hearing a word from them.
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Saturday, 19 July 2008
OUTSIDE THE BOX
The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is introducing a mobile ticketing (m-ticket) system to make travel for its thousands of passengers more convenient.
Under the new system, mobile phone users regardless of network will simply need to register by sending a text message to 2660.
Upon registering, the subscriber will receive a two-dimensional (2D) barcode via text, which he will scan using the devices at the train stations. The barcode will serve as his ticket, allowing him to bypass the long lines at the ticket booths.
Scanning devices installed at the the Taft and North Ave. stations will become operational by Monday, while similar devices will be installed in the coming months at the other stations.
The m-tickets will cost 3% more than the regular magnetic cards, but Annabelle Margoli, Omniprime Marketing, Inc. president, in a statement argued "you’re buying convenience."
Omniprime is introducing the m-ticket system to the Philippines with the help of German software developer, Gavitech AG.
Ms. Margoli said the system will work in most models of Nokia phones, but warned some models are not compatible with the system.
Simeon Kintanar, former congressman and Omniprime chairman, said the system still needs to be fine-tuned so it becomes compatible with all kinds of mobile phones.
Soaring oil prices is forcing vehicle owners to leave their cars at home and take Metro Manila’s elevated train system in going around the metropolis.
The MRT, as a result, is seeing a sharp increase in ridership, forcing it to operate over its capacity.
The MRT system, which runs along EDSA, was designed to accommodate 350,000 passengers a day, but ridership has risen to almost half a million passengers a day. — Paolo Luis G. Montecillo
Friday, 18 July 2008
THE P9-BILLION St. Luke’s Medical Center project, the Philippines’ biggest single-construction hospital undertaking to date, held a simple but festive "topping-off" ceremony recently. Slated for completion in October 2009 after groundbreaking in February 2005, what would be a state-of-the-art medical facility drew raves due to its sheer expanse and magnitude, even in its yet to be completed form."This topping-off ceremony marks another big and exciting milestone for St. Luke’s Medical Center and our community," said St. Luke’s chairman Robert F. Kuan. Top businessmen and government officials attended the ceremony, in which cement was shoveled into the upper deck of the 14-story structure, hosting a helipad for the best and fastest medical emergency transportation. Occupying all of 1.6 hectares of prime space, St. Luke’s-Global City will house 600 patient beds and will boast of a medical arts building with well-appointed doctors and administrative staff offices.
Northrail will push through
By NATE C. BARRETTO
The Manila Bulletin
A congressional inquiry into the $ 400-million Northrail project, awarded to a China state-owned contractor four years ago, will not derail moves to finally begin construction of the 32-kilometer railway from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan, Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council (SCADC) Chairman Edgardo Pamintuan said yesterday.
Pamintuan, who is waiting for his official Palace appointment to head the Northern Luzon Railways Corp. (Northrail), said, "Sinabi po ng ating mahal na Pangulo (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo), Ed, ituloy mo iyan (Northrail project). There are around 20 Chinese engineers doing the survey. Nandyan pa po sila sa Valenzuela."
Pamintuan assured that China and National Machinery Equipment Group (CNMEG) will resume work on the project within 45 days.
Some senators have bared plans to investigate alleged overpricing and mishandling of the 0-million fund loaned from the Chinese Export-Import Bank once Congress resumes session. However, Pamintuan said, such an inquiry will be no reason to further delay the project.
However, he said, the original price of the contract after years of delay in implementation has gone up.
"Almost 50 percent na ang itinaas ng halaga since nagpirmahan. Kapag official na ang appointment ko (as Northrail Chief Executive Officer), iyan ang ine-negotiate natin," Pamintuan said.
He said a courtesy call on the the Chinese Embassy here. "They never lost hope na macontinue yung project. It was only suspended. Phase One from Caloocan to Malolos has not yet begun only because of alignment issues," Pamintuan said.
He explained that there are 50 families whose properties lie along the Northrail route, which were not included in the right-of-way survey.
"Maliban po sa 50 families na iyan, 99 percent nang nailikas ng ating kabayan, Vice President Noli de Castro, ang mga tatamaan ng Northrail 15 meters to the left and 15 meters to the right of the railroad," Pamintuan said.
The Northrail project, which has four phases along the route from Taguig and Caloocan cities to Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Pangasinan, and La Union, is now integrated into the SCADC’s Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB) Super Region under Pamintuan's supervision.
Ben R Rosario
The Manila Bulletin
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) will recruit more than 1,000 lawyers to provide legal services for indigent litigants facing charges in all courts of justice in the country.
This developed as Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez gave PAO the go-signal to extend legal assistance to victims of the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy.
Chief Public Attorney Persida V. Rueda Acosta revealed she has created a panel of top PAO lawyers to pursue criminal and civil cases against Sulpicio Lines Inc., adding that victims seeking their legal assistance will be exempted from paying court docket fees.
Speaking at yesterday’s Usaping Balita News Forum in Quezon City, Acosta said the recruitment of new public defenders is expected to start next year as a result of the full implementation of Republic Act No. 9406 which reorganized and strengthened PAO.
The newly approved law will give PAO operational independence from the Department of Justice and, in effect, finally fully detach the government’s program of defending the poor from its prosecutorial arms such as the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the State Prosecutor.
Under the law, PAO will attain independence from DoJ as an attached agency of the department for purposes of policy and program coordination.
DoJ will no longer be involved in the recruitment of legal staff and overall operations of the agency.
Acosta said RA 9406 will likewise result in the increase in salaries of public lawyers to make them at par with those received by government prosecutors.
"The upgrading of salaries will give us the opportunity to recruit the best and the brightest lawyers in the country to represent the poor who require legal services. We hope this will put an end to the brain drain in PAO," said Acosta, who ranked second in the bar examinations in 1985.
Acosta said the recruitment of additional 1,000 lawyers will be spread within a two-year period, defending on the availability of funds.
She urged Congress to make available the necessary budget that would bolster the country’s justice system, especially in representing the poor involved in criminal, civil, labor, administrative, and quasi-judicial litigation.
"Under the new law, we will be allowed to hire more lawyers to be assigned in each of the court salas in the country. Kasabay ng pagdami ng mga public defenders ang paglakas ng panlaban natin sa kaapihan dahil pati liblib na pook na mayroong korte ay magkakaroon na rin ng sariling abogado para sa mahihirap," Acosta explained.
In the same news forum, Rep. Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna) said the grant of autonomy to PAO addressed the problem of its lawyers of being "second class attorneys" in the DoJ.
"Prosecution and defense should be in equal footing. DoJ’s orientation of ensuring justice is prosecutorial in nature," Casiño noted.
Casiño was among the solons who authored the measure. Other principal authors of the measure include: Reps. Edcel Lagman (Lakas, Albay), Simeon Datumanong (Lakas, Maguindanao), and Matias Defensor (Lakas, Quezon City).
On the Sulpicio tragedy, Acosta said she has directed her legal staff to file individual cases for each victim of the Princess of the Stars, adding that they will likewise advise poor clients to guard themselves against misrepresentation.
According to Acosta, the R200,000 offered by Sulpicio should not be misconstrued by the victims as damage payments by the firm, but as part of the insurance coverage for the passengers. (Ben R. Rosario)
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
The Manila Times
Inveterate haters of President Gloria Arroyo complain that she never fulfills her promises.
When asked to list all her unfulfilled promises, most will only be able to name one: Her vow, made on December 30, 2002, in her Rizal Day speech, not to seek the presidency in the 2004 election.
She has pledged to do many things in her seven state of the Nation addresses (SONAs) since she gave the first one in 2001. Soon, in the coming SONA on July 28, she will surely make more promises.
Large newspaper ads and billboards list SONA promises made and fulfilled.
In fairness to the President, her critics must admit that the lists are impressive.
In the 2001 SONA, President Arroyo said, “Trabaho, edukasyon, sariling tahanan . . . pagkain sa bawat mesa . . . [Jobs, education, a home of one’s own . . . food on every table . . .] the core of my vision.” Here are the promises made in the 2001 SONA and how they were fulfilled:
Promise made: Food on every table
“Cheap rice and prosperous farmer . . . this is our wish for the masses.” This has been fulfilled through: 1,533 rolling stores and 10,919 Tindahan Natin outlets that sell NFA rice at P18.25 per kilo; 108 Barangay Bagsakan that sell fruits, vegetables and meat products at low prices; 817 farmers’ organizations have availed themselves of the rice buyback scheme. Farmers sell palay to NFA at P17 per kilo and can buy it back within six months and sell it in the open market.
“Let us strive to attain rice self-sufficiency.” Fulfillment: Rice self-sufficiency averaged 90 percent from 2001 to 2007. Target for 2008 is 92 percent, by 2010, 100 percent.
“We will multiply the income and harvest of the poor in the countryside.” Fulfillment: Built new irrigation systems for 146,117 hectares and restored old broken down systems for 980,071 hectares. Loans to the tune of P20 billion were extended to farmers and fisher folk. Completed installation of 590 dryers in 49 rice-producing provinces completed.
Promise made: Trabaho (Employment)
“A million new jobs in agriculture and fisheries.” Fulfillment: 1,782,099 jobs generated in the agriculture and fisheries sectors from July 2001 to July 2003. “To create jobs, we will attract investments.” Fulfillment: 9 million jobs created from 2005 to March 2008. “Every year we will add 300,000 poor women to benefit from the micro finance loan program.” Fulfillment: 1,634, 662 jobs created from P91.28 billion in micro finance loans, 95 percent of whom are women.
Promise made: Education
“We will increase the number of textbooks per student.” Fulfillment: A 1:1 textbook to pupil ratio has been attained.
“I want a school building in every barangay.” Fulfillment: Of the 1,617 target barangay without schools in 2001, only 267 still have no schools today.
Promise made: A home of one’s own for all
“We are helping workers and the poor to each have a home of his own.” Fulfillment: 543,230 poor families and low-income worker families were provided socialized housing units. Interest on loans for these socialized housing units reduced to 6 percent from 9 percent.
Promise made: Good health
“ . . . Half a million poor urban dwellers will be made members of the National Health Insurance system.” Fulfillment: 65 million Filipinos enrolled in the Philhealth program.
Promise made: Energy
“. . . Every day, every night four barangay will be energized.” Fulfillment: 40,590 of the targeted 41,980 barangay were energized, bringing to 96.7 percent the national electrification level as of March 2008.
Promise made: Tax reform
“. . . In the tax reform that you will initiate, increase the categories of workers who will not be required to pay taxes.” (Instruction given to Congress.) Fulfillment: Republic Act No. 9504, the Tax Relief for Minimum Wage Earners, was signed on June 17, 2008.
Promises made in the 2002 to 2007 SONAs have also been fulfilled, the Palace claims. The President’s critics may quibble about the completeness and quality of the fulfillment. But no one can say her administration simply turned its back on the promises she has made on every SONA day these past seven years.
-- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inaugurates the "Palit Bombilya" project of the Department of Energy which would mobilize and encourage households, the community, institutions and corporations to engage in energy or electricity conservation during its launching ceremonies Wednesday (July 16, 2008) at the Summit Hall C and D, 4th Floor of the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. The "Palit Bombilya" or Switch to Compact Flourescent Lamp (CFL) from incandescent bulb is one of the alternative solutions that the Switch Movement had proposed to the President in order to lessen the electricity consumption during the 2008 Philippine Energy Summjit held early this year. Assisting the President is Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes. (EDWIN PARIL/OPS-NIB Photo)
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed today all government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs) to draw up a P500-million special, easily accessible loan program for the livelihood projects of the families and relatives of drivers and conductors of public utility vehicles (PUVs).
The President issued the directive when she addressed the Forum on Alternative Fuel for Public Transport at the Hall A & B of the Philippine Trade and Training Center (PTTC) in Pasay City this morning.
“Today, I take this opportunity to direct all GOCCs and government-financial institutions to craft a special, easily accessible P500-million micro-financing program for the wives and the immediate family members of drivers and conductors of public utility vehicles,” the President said.
The P.5-billion micro-financing assistance will be sourced from the value added tax (VAT) collected by the national government, she said.
The President also tasked Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Director General and Secretary Cerge Remonde to encourage private market financing institutions to draw up a similar market financing program for the families and relatives of the transport workers.
The President told the transport groups that once the guidelines for the special loan package are drawn by the GOCCs and GFIs, the wives and immediate family members of the PUB drivers and conductors can start filing their request for their loan.
She said the special accessible loan package is envisioned to uplift the living conditions of drivers and conductors of PUVs such as jeepneys, taxis, buses and FX.
In her speech, the President informed the drivers and commuters, that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) are not sleeping on their jobs in the fight against erring or “kotong cops” and kolorum vehicles.
“We are also fighting kotong and kolorum to boost drivers’ income,” the President said.
She said that there’s now a need to look for an alternative way to increase the income of public utility vehicles workers to enable them to meet the daily needs of their families.
“Umaasa tayo na makadaragdag ito sa kita ng kanilang mga mag-anak na hindi aasa lamang sa nag-iisang kita ng tsuper at konduktor sa pamilya,” the President said.
Joining the President in the forum were Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, PMS Director General Secretary Cerge Remonde, MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando, and LTO chief Alberto Suansing Jr.
Cebu Pacific (CEB), the country’s largest domestic airline, has signed an agreement with MIAA to operate at the NAIA Terminal 3.
CEB is now conducting full simulation exercises.
Depending on the terminal being fully functional, CEB plans to introduce initially its domestic ATR service within the month, and move balance of its domestic operations, within days of the initial start-up, and all of its international operations a couple of months from now.
Joint Statement of Manila International Airport Authority and Cebu Pacific Airlines
Unofficial Blog for Cebu Pacific Airlines
Following a successful simulation yesterday, July 15, 2008, Manila International Airport Authority and Cebu Pacific announced today (July 16) that Cebu Pacific will transfer part of its domestic operation to Terminal 3 starting on July 22.
“We will phase our transfer to NAIA Terminal 3 by initially transferring our ATR operations on July 22, to be followed by the balance of our domestic flights. International operations will also move to Terminal 3 later in 2008,” said Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president.
Cebu Pacific flights from Manila to: Boracay (Caticlan), Laoag, Naga, San Jose (Mindoro), and Tuguegarao will be the first to operate out of the new terminal starting July 22.
“As the country’s largest domestic carrier, we are very excited to be offering our guests a better airport terminal because this will definitely improve their flight experience.” Iyog emphasized.
Cebu Pacific at present uses the old domestic terminal for local flights and the NAIA Terminal 1 for its international operations.
“This very positive development is certainly something that has been long awaited not only by the airport authorities and Cebu Pacific, but by the traveling public most especially,” said Tirso Serrano, MIAA Assistant General Manager for Airport Development and Corporate Affairs. “The NAIA family comprised of MIAA and the other government agencies operating at the premier gateway are joining hands to make the initial operations at the new terminal safe, secure, convenient for all passengers and stakeholders.” Serrano added.
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Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks climbed anew by 15.6 percent year-on-year to reach US$1.4 billion for the third consecutive month since March 2008. This brought the five-month remittance level to US$6.8 billion, 14.7 percent higher than the year-ago level.
Behind the continued expansion in remittances for the period January – May 2008 was the steady growth in the number of deployed Filipino workers and enhanced financial services offered by the banks to OFs. Preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed that for the first five months of 2008, the number of deployed Filipino workers worldwide rose by 39.5 percent from 382,777 to 533,945. This reflected the distinct preference for the skills quality and competence of Filipino workers. Moreover, remittances are expected to get a further boost from more work opportunities awaiting qualified Filipino workers with the current expansion of a giant oil processing complex in the Middle East to service the rising global demand for crude oil.
Meanwhile, banks and non-bank remittance centers continued to exert aggressive marketing efforts to provide expanded financial services to OFs and their beneficiaries. The establishment of more remittance centers, correspondent banks, and branches/representative offices abroad, together with the existing tie-ups with foreign financial counterparts, is expected to further facilitate the flow of remittances.
The bulk of remittances continued to come from the U.S.A, Saudi Arabia, Canada, the U.K., Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Opening Statement of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the NDCC Meeting
TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2008 | PROVINCIAL VISIT
Mga kaibigan, sa ulat ng PAG-ASA, labing-apat pang bagyo ang baka dumaan sa Pilipinas hanggang katapusan ng taon. Our disaster management consists of four phases: mitigation, preparation, response and rehabilitation. Kaya rerepasuhin ngayon ng National Disaster Coordinating Council ang mga pagkilos para sa rehabilitasyon matapos ang mga Bagyong Cosme at Frank, at ang kahandaan ng ating mga binabagyong rehiyon.
Sa ating paghahanda at pagsaklolo sa panahon ng bagyo, pati na rin sa araw-araw nating pag-ayuda sa mga pamilyang nahihirapan sa pagmahal ng bilihin, kailangan ang todong tutok sa trabaho ang taong bayan. Walang panahon para sa pamumulitika, at laging magkapit-bisig sa lahat ng handang tumutulong sa nagigipit at nahihirapan.
Importante din ang may sapat na pondo upang maghatid ng biyaya sa masa. Mabuti na lamang at lumalago ang kaban ng bayan, salamat sa ating mga reporma sa buwis. Dapat pag-igihin ang paglikom ng buwis, upang makakilos ang pamahalaan para sa taong bayan nang hindi kinakapos.
Bilyun-bilyong piso ang nasalanta sa Typhoon Frank, at bilyun-bilyon din ang kailangan upang maibangon ang mga magsasaka, mangingisda, at tagalunsod na binaha at binagyo. Samantala, patuloy ang paglalaan ng pondo para sa mga sector na lubhang nahihirapan sa pagtaas ng presyo ng langis.
Noong isang buwan, nagpalabas tayo ng apat na bilyong piso mula sa koleksyon ng value added tax sa langis—dalawang bilyon para sa pambayad ng koryente ng apat na milyong mahihirap at isang bilyon bilang college scholarship at pautang sa 70,000 na estudyanteng maralita.
Mayroon kalahating bilyon ding pautang upang palitan ang motor ng mga apat na libong jeepney sa mas matipid na makinang LPG, at sa July 16 ilulunsad natin ang kalahating bilyon upang palitan ang makonsumong bumbilya sa mas matipid na fluorescent para sa mga palengke, paaralan, ospital, gusali ng pamahalaan, kalsada, tahanan, at traffic lights.
Sa sunod na KATAS ng VAT na nakolekta mula Abril hanggan Hunyo, may karagdagang P1 billion na pambayad ng koryente ng mahihirap; at P1 billion ng capital na ipauutang sa mga maybahay at kapamilya ng mga namamasadang tsuper at konduktor.
May kalahating bilyon ding halaga upang mapataas ang kakayahan at kasangkapan ng mga munting ospital sa lalawigan. Para sa mga kalamidad, maglalagay tayo ng bumabagay na halaga para sa tinatawag na Panay and Other Islands Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation. Ang Masbate ay kasama doon sa mga other islands.
Bukod sa pagkilos at pangangailangan ng mga ahensiya ng pamahalaang pambansa, diringgin din ng NDCC ang mga gobyernong lokal, ang mga pagkilos nila at ng pangangailangan ng kanilang mga nasasakupan. Ganitong pagtutulungan ng mga lider ng bansa ang kailangan sa panahong ito. Hindi mawawala ang mga di-pinagkakaunawaan at di-pagkakasundo. Subalit sa wakas, dapat itabi ang mga ito at magbalikatan para sa sambayanan.
Ito ang ating kailangan ngayon—tutok sa trabaho at taong bayan, gamit ang lumalagong kaban ng bansa, at kabalikat ang mga pinuno ng sambayanan.
Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Passenger Terminal 3 (NAIA-3), which opens next week, will be a “terror-proof, accident-free and criminal-shielded airport,” the head of the presidential task force overseeing its operations said yesterday.
Michael Defensor, chief of the Presidential Task Force on the NAIA-3, also gave assurances that the “dry-run” of the facility on July 23 for domestic flights will not run into legal troubles over the issue of ownership.
“Safety is a paramount concern, in-and-out, front-back-center of this sprawling airport,” Defensor said. “We want a terror-proof, accident-free, criminal-shielded airport. So even the smallest details are being looked into, like stairs, because we don’t want a passenger to slip and break a leg.”
He said apart from the closed-circuit cameras, scanners and x-ray machines, the facility will have other security and safety devices compliant with US Federal Aviation Agency standards.
The airport would also have other facilities that he said would ensure passenger comfort and hassle-free transit.
He said there would be simulations to be conducted today at the NAIA-3 or a week before it operates for domestic flights of carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) Express, Cebu Pacific, and Air Philippines.
He said all systems of the facility are being tested to probe the airport’s ability to function not only under normal conditions but also in “every imaginable contingency.”
“If it was human, NAIA-3 is being put under a treadmill stress test. Our engineers are simulating situations to see if so-called redundancy systems will kick in,” Defensor said.
He, however, said the biggest challenge was to work up the airport to full operating condition.
“All airports have birth pains and the challenge is to iron out the kinks once you see it. But this one has been in labor for too long,” Defensor said.
He said there would be an initial 20 domestic flights on Wednesday next week of Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines and PAL Express.
Defensor said Cebu Pacific alone has about 140 flights daily “but I don’t think we can reach that in the initial stages (of operations).”
He expressed hope that by early next year, NAIA-3 would be able to fully handle domestic and international flights.
Defensor said revenues of the NAIA-3 would be placed in escrow to build up funds to compensate its builder, the Philippine International Air Terminal Co. (Piatco).
He said part of the earnings would also be used for operating expenses.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot exercise full ownership of the NAIA-3 unless it compensates Piatco.
By Ding Cervantes
The Philippine Star
CLARK FREEPORT – North Luzon Railways Corp. (Northrail) chairman and chief executive officer Edgardo Pamintuan yesterday said Chinese embassy officials are “optimistic” that the Caloocan-to-Clark railway project will push through.
“There will be no terminations, no cancellations,” he said.
He noted, however, that the cost of the entire project, which is supposed to be funded from a $400-million loan from the Chinese government, is likely to be adjusted amid variations in its design, rise in cost of materials and currency fluctuations, among other factors.
Pamintuan told The STAR that the project contractor, China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. Group (CNMEG), has not backed out but merely suspended work on the project pending the approval of the project design it made as well as the clearance of the rail pathway under Northrail’s jurisdiction.
“I have been meeting with officials of the Chinese embassy and the CNMEG regarding the engineering aspects of the project. I still have to look into the financial concerns, but there’s definitely no termination, no cancellation of the project with China,” said Pamintuan, who was appointed to head Northrail only last week.
He said there is nothing final yet on how much the cost of the railway project would be, amid reports that Chinese officials are poised to file an international legal suit over the nonpayment of cost overruns and other violations of contract on the railway project that was initially estimated to cost $503 million, including right-of-way cost.
“What I know is that it was CNMEG and not the Chinese government that wrote Northrail sometime last May on the increase of contract price by $299 million,” he said.
Pamintuan, however, dismissed the letter as “water under the bridge as talks are now underway with Chinese government officials on all pertinent issues.”
He said that variations on the design affecting cost of project are a normal occurrence in infrastructure.
The railway project’s price overrun reportedly includes an $88.63-million adjustment arising from project “variations” and work quantities, and $210.77 million additional compensation for the extra costs resulting from the variations.
Pamintuan said that the cost of the project is also affected by unexpected right-of-way problems along the rail paths, particularly in Bulacan where Chinese designers designated titled lands for depots and stations not initially foreseen.
“Some 500 titled lots have to be expropriated in Bulacan for this, in addition to some 57 more houses that have to be cleared because they are within the railway alignment also in Bulacan,” he said.
The Bases Conversion Development Authority is in charge of expropriation issues, he added.
Pamintuan said that according to the government contract with CNMEG, work on the railway project could not be started unless the Northrail has cleared the entire pathway from Caloocan to Clark.
Pamintuan declined to comment on reports that since January 2005, the government has been paying $400,000 in monthly interest on the $400-million Chinese loan for the railway project.
“I have not yet looked into the financial aspect of the project since I assumed the post recently,” he said.
By Ric Sapnu
The Philippine Star
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – The South Korean firm Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp.-Philippines (HHIC-Phils.) was ordered to stop operations yesterday after another worker died in an accident in its shipyard over the weekend.
This is the third time that HHIC-Phils. has been issued a cease-and-desist order since the shipping company started operations in 2006.
Ramon Agregado, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) senior deputy administrator for support services, told The STAR “legal and regulatory measures” will be meted out against HHIC-Phils. if it is found to have disregarded health and safety requirements.
“This shall be without prejudice to other sanctions, fines and penalties that may be imposed against HHIC-Phils. Inc. as principal of Subic Han Sung Inc. should the latter be found guilty or remiss of its obligations to fully provide for the safety and health of its workers,” he said.
Agregado said the latest incident raises questions about HHI-Phils.’ compliance with occupational safety and health rules and regulations.
A total of 13 fatal accidents have been reported at HHIC-Phils.’ $1.6-billion shipyard since 2006, he added.
Agregado also directed Subic Han Sung Inc., the HHIC-Phils. subcontractor that employed Benjie Gamolo, the worker who died in the accident, to explain within 48 hours why its registration should not be suspended or revoked.
A seven-day cease-and-desist order was issued against Subic Han Sung.
The two separate orders were sent yesterday to HHIC-Phils. president Jeong Sup Shim and Han Sung president Ryoo Kwon Taek.
On Sunday, the 31-year-old Gamolo was reportedly installing a back girder atop a beam when an eight-foot long, eight-ton steel beam slipped and hit him in the back and left side of the body.
The back girder was reportedly used as a brace for parallel columns.
Gamolo, a structural erector, died from the injuries the next day at the James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital in Olongapo City.
Last June 20, the SBMA also ordered HHIC-Phils. to stop operations after a steel formwork collapsed due to strong winds, killing one worker and injuring four others.
Records showed that on Jan. 18 this year, two welders – Mario Lacsamana of Subic, Zambales and Jeremias Adamos of Morong, Bataan – died when a welding machine blew up. Two rigger operators, Eduardo Molina and Niel Mojica, both from Castillejos, Zambales were killed when they were hit by a steel platform while working at the quay wall of HHIC-Phils. on March 10 this year.
On June 15, Oliver Labay, a 32-year-old worker from Olongapo City, died when he was pinned down by a steel plate while fixing another steel plate at Fabrication 23 Bay Assemble Shop of HHI-Phils at Redondo Peninsula on June 15. — With Bebot Sison Jr.
Monday, 14 July 2008
By Joel P. Mapiles
The Business Mirror
TRANSGLOBAL Airways, a Filipino-owned airline company, is set to mount two major international flight routes via Clark effective July 22, 2008 for Clark-Bangkok-Clark and July 28 for the Clark-Singapore-Clark routes.
Tourism regional director, Ronaldo Tiotuico, said in a statement that TransGlobal Airways, led by its general manager Rommel Evangelista, conducted a product update for all officers and members of Alliance of Travel and Tour Agencies of Pampanga Inc. led by its president Paz Gozum on July 10 to keep them posted on the new carrier’s flight route and fare scheme and, at the same time, tap the tour operators in Pampanga for sales and ticketing.
Evangelista said the company joins the ranks of popular low-cost carriers and will fly MD-83 aircraft with a seat capacity of 160 for the two routes. Travel period is from July 22 to August 30 for the Bangkok route and from July 28 to August 30 for the Singapore route. The air fare is between $120 and $180, depending on the booking class and is inclusive of all taxes applicable.
By Jennifer A. Ng
The Business Mirror
HARVESTS of palay during summer had already reached 7.3 million metric tons (MMT), or 200,000 metric tons more than the 7.1 MMT targeted by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap also said the department expects the summer harvest to go beyond 7.3 MMT as the area harvested covers only 92 percent of the 1.94-million hectares planted to palay for the dry season.
The total volume of palay harvested is almost 9 percent higher than the 6.7 MMT of palay harvested during last year’s crop.
DA figures show that Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley were the top producers of palay in the dry season. As of end-June, Central Luzon produced 1.4 MMT of palay, while Cagayan Valley farmers produced 1.13 MMT.
Farmers in all regions have harvested their crops in more than 90 percent of all palay fields, except for those in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Bicol.
For the wet season, which started in May, the DA said it is hopeful that palay areas would produce more than 10 MMT.
The DA is banking on the immediate rehabilitation of farm areas ravaged by Typhoon Frank in the Visayas to achieve its target palay production for 2008.
Farm areas in the Visayas are critical as the DA turned to them last year for its quick turnaround program.
The DA is targeting to produce 17.32 MMT of palay this year, or 6.67 percent higher than the 16.24 MMT produced in 2007.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
CLICK HERE FOR TABLE.
Net inflows of foreign direct investments (FDIs) in April 2008 rose by more than fourfold to US$269 million as all FDI components posted hefty increases over their year-ago levels. This positive development brought the aggregate four-month FDI level to US$820 million. All FDI components for the period January – April 2008 posted net inflows but the levels were lower compared to those in the same period a year ago, due to the generally sluggish economic growth in major investor countries, particularly the United States, and the prevailing cautious investor sentiment amid global uncertainties. FDI flows into the country came from a high base last year due to a big-ticket investment in a local beverage company.
In April 2008, FDI net inflows in equity capital more than doubled from last year’s level to reach US$106 million, due mainly to higher gross equity capital placements aggregating US$127 million. Reinvested earnings and other capital also posted significant gains, recording higher net inflows of US$31 million and US$132 million, respectively (from US$10 million and US$2 million in April 2007).
Year-to-date, net inflows in equity capital amounted to US$299 million. Gross equity capital placements from January – April 2008 reached US$411 million and were mainly channeled to manufacturing (shipbuilding and repair, auto electronics parts & components), services (recreational/cultural), mining, construction (hotel/resort development, power plant facility), real estate, and financial institutions. Investments came mainly from Japan, Singapore, Germany, Malaysia, U.S., and South Korea.
Meanwhile, reinvested earnings in the first four months of the year amounted to US$131 million. This level was 7.7 percent lower than the level posted during the comparable period in 2007, as local companies repatriated some profits to their foreign investors.
The other capital account—which consists largely of intercompany borrowing/lending between foreign direct investors and their subsidiaries/affiliates in the Philippines—also registered a net inflow of US$390 million in the first four months of the year, although lower relative to the US$573 million net inflow in the same period last year. This was due mainly to lower net loan availments by local subsidiaries from their foreign/parent companies.
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star
The country’s top airlines will be inking an agreement with the government today for domestic flight operations in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) that is scheduled to open next week after a 10-year wait.
President Arroyo will witness the signing of the agreement between NAIA-3 Task Force chief Michael Defensor and executives of Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines Express, and Air Philippines at Malacañang in simple ceremonies.
“After this, we hope to be able to open NAIA-3 for international flights by next year,” Defensor announced.
“There could be as much as 140 flights in the early days of operations in NAIA-3,” he said.
Defensor said the airline firms are already busy setting up their offices and facilities at the terminal for a smooth opening of domestic flights.
“But since we are aiming for that (international flights), we must make strategic decisions,” Defensor said.
These will include those who could finish the NAIA-3, which Defensor said, is about 98 percent completed.
Defensor said he wrote Takenaka Corp., the contractor that undertook the construction of the NAIA-3, on the matter of completing the airport terminal.
Defensor also pointed out the requirements for domestic flights are not as stringent or complicated compared to international flights.
Everything is being done, Defensor said, for a smooth and safe initial operation of the facility for domestic flights on July 15.
The Aviation Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said an adequate number of policemen have been deployed for the opening of NAIA-3 for domestic flights.
PNP-Aviation Group commander Chief Superintendent Atilano Morada said preparations had been made for the grand opening of the mothballed airport on July 22.
Morada said the Aviation Group made coordination with Defensor to ensure the safety of the passengers and its employees once the airport begins operations.
He said a total of 1,366 policemen would be deployed to cover the 63.5-hectare airport terminal that has a total floor area of 182,500 square meters.
Aside from the airfield, authorities said a four-level shopping mall connects the terminal and parking buildings.
The parking building can service 2,000 vehicles while the outdoor parking area can accommodate 1,200 cars. The terminal is capable of servicing 33,000 passengers daily at peak or 6,000 passengers per hour.
NAIA-3’s apron area has a size of 147,400 square meters, 34 air bridges, 20 contact gates with the ability of servicing 28 planes at any given time.
The terminal has 70 flight information terminals, 314 display monitors, with 300 kilometers of fiber optic I.T. cabling.
The NAIA-3 has 29 restroom blocks. The departure area has five entrances all equipped with X-ray machines with the final security check having 18 X-ray machines while its baggage claim has seven large baggage carousels, each with its own flight display monitor.
Defensor admitted the ongoing legal processes involving NAIA-3 were a “very complicated” issue but said the use of the modern terminal for domestic flights would not violate any law.
Defensor said the task force he headed, which was created on June 9 by virtue of Executive Order No. 732, has been tasked to ensure the immediate opening and operation of NAIA-3.
He explained the executive order was based on the decisions of the Supreme Court (SC) over the issue.
The SC in 2005 ruled the government must pay compensation of the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (Piatco), the consortium that built the NAIA-3, before the government can claim ownership of the facility.
In 2004, the government expropriated and took physical control of the facility after the SC voided the contract with Piatco and its German partner, Fraport AG.
Since then, the NAIA-3 remains locked down amid ongoing arbitration cases in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Singapore and in the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington.
Piatco has been demanding $565 million from the government as compensation while Fraport is claiming $425 million in compensation for its losses in investments.
But the ICSID last year dismissed the case filed by Fraport, saying it had no jurisdiction over the case. Since then, there have been mounting calls for the privatization of NAIA-3.
After her 10-day trip from the United States early this month, Mrs. Arroyo’s plane landed at the NAIA-3 as part of the testing of the facility and inspection of the terminal.
Mrs. Arroyo issued the executive order in which she said the NAIA-3 was a major infrastructure project initiated in 1997 to service heavy passenger traffic.
“Since its construction in 1998, Terminal III has not been operational due to several legal, technical and other controversies,” Mrs. Arroyo said.
“The immediate opening and operation of Terminal III is of paramount national importance,” she said.
Mrs. Arroyo appointed Defensor to head the task force to provide policy directions and executive guidance on all matters relating to the opening of the terminal.
The task force was given the mandate to “control, supervise, construct, maintain and provide such facilities or services as shall be necessary for the immediate opening and functioning of the Terminal III.”
The task force can also direct any of the officials of the Manila International Airport Authority, or any other office or agency to perform duties related to the opening of NAIA-3.
It would also represent the President on matters relating to the opening of NAIA-3.
Business groups raised alarm over the possibility that the government would be forced to pay billions in dollars to compensate Piatco because of the SC ruling last April on fears it could weaken the Philippine position in the arbitration case.
Analysts said the separate opinion in the SC decision placed the blame on the government for the fiasco that led to the nullification of the Piatco contract.
They said that in effect, Piatco was also a victim of the government’s incompetence in handling the contract and thus, the government can no longer present evidence of alleged fraud in the expropriation court in connection with the determination of just compensation for the consortium.
Reports said the government paid at least $20 million in legal fees abroad, and P3 billion in initial compensation to Piatco to expropriate NAIA-3. Business groups said it would be better for the government to allow the private sector run the terminal so as to not waste more taxpayers’ money. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe
WILL IT LAND AT NAIA 3?
SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2008 | PROVINCIAL VISIT
CALBAYOG CITY, Western Samar – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will personally welcome the first 76 passengers on the inaugural flight of the Philippine Airlines' low-fare, PAL Express, to this city on Tuesday (July 15).
The President, whose Super Regions development program includes the linking of the country via an efficient and cost-effective network of roads, ports and airports, expressed her desire to take part in PAL Express’ inaugural event when she was told about it by Calbayog City Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento in an earlier meeting with her in Malacañang.
With this option to reach this city known for its waterfalls now available to the public, trade, tourism and the local economy is expected to perk up.
PAL Express, the new, low-fares unit that Philippine Airlines launched on May 5, 2008, serves mainly domestic routes throughout the Philippines from hubs such as Cebu and Manila, as well as secondary routes to smaller airports in island provinces that cannot accommodate PAL's regular jet aircraft.
After initially servicing the Manila-Caticlan (Boracay) route, PAL Express now serves Bacolod, Tacloban, Butuan and General Santos.
The Express will operate with an initial fleet of nine turbo-propeller aircraft – three Bombardier Q300s and six Bombardier Q400s – manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace of Canada.
Both aircraft are part of Bombardier's "Q Series" of turbo-props – the Q standing for "quiet" due to a patented suppression system that reduces cabin noise and vibration levels well below those of jetliners.
The Q Series are equipped with two Pratt & Whitney turbo-prop engines with maximum ranges of 1,819 kilometers for the Q300 and 2,826 kilometers for the Q400.
Both airplanes have outstanding takeoff and landing capabilities even on unprepared airstrips, making them the ideal choice for PAL Express' services to small provincial airfields.
The Q300 cabin is configured with 50 seats at a comfortable 32-inch pitch, while the slightly larger Q400 seats 76 passengers at a 30-inch pitch, making for low seat-mile costs that are ultimately passed on to passengers in the form of low fares.
PAL Express will base its turbo-prop fleet mainly in Cebu, in order to better serve the growing intra-regional market in the Visayas and Mindanao.
While some flights will also operate out of Manila, especially in the initial phase, Cebu will be the focal point of turbo-prop operations as PAL re-establishes the city as its main hub in southern Philippines.
PAL operated a bustling Cebu hub for most of its 67-year history, when it was the sole airline mandated to provide air services to far-flung rural communities. As such, turbo-props were an integral part of PAL's fleet for decades.
When PAL entered receivership in 1999, however, its rehabilitation plan stipulated an all-jet fleet, forcing the airline to dispose of its last turbo-prop type, the Fokker 50, and close its Cebu hub.
With PAL's successful emergence from rehabilitation in Sept. 2007, resuming turbo-prop operations became a key priority, in keeping with the national carrier's historic mandate of serving outlying areas.
In this effort, the restored Cebu hub will play a central role, PAL said.
SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2008 | PROVINCIAL VISIT
PLACER, Masbate -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to visit the fourth class municipality of Placer in Masbate province Tuesday (July 15) to personally deliver enhanced social services to the poor.
She will also preside over the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC)-Cabinet meeting at the Floro V. Casas Hall of the Celera Inocencio Central School for an update on the rehabilitation efforts being undertaken by government agencies in the areas hit by Typhoon Frank.
The President will also receive a briefing on the latest developments on the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy.
She will also lead the delivery of enhanced social services including healthcare, snack packs and vitamin-A gels for Grade 1 pupils, school chairs, certified rice seeds and hybrid corn seeds, among others.
The municipality of Placer is one of several areas devastated by Typhoon Frank. Local officials will brief the President on the extent of damage in the province, as well as the status of ongoing efforts to bring back to normal the lives of the people.
The Masbateños’ main source of livelihood, farming and fishing, was severely affected by the typhoon.
Residents claim that the small fishing industry suffered a big blow as some of the typhoon casualties were fishermen. The bodies of some of the victims were washed ashore after the calamity.
Masbate was among the provinces placed under a state of calamity in the aftermath of Typhoon Frank. Close to 8,000 families in the province, most of them living in the coastal areas, were evacuated to higher grounds at the height of the typhoon.
The Manila Standard
UNIVERSITY of the Philippines computer science students have won an international award for a Java program that enables doctors in rural areas to access a database of common poisons using their mobile phones.
Diana Bandojo, Ma. Jaymee Gatapia and Reggie Santos were named winners in the medical solutions category of the Duke’s Choice Award, an annual search for innovative programs running on the Java platform.
Sun Microsystems, which sponsors the annual event, also announced winners in 10 other categories.
Winners were selected by team led by James Gosling, the inventor of Java language, and announced during the JavaOne conference, the biggest Java technology event.
The winning entry from the Philippines, ESP, uses a database of common poisons and a rules-based approach to assess the poisoning case and make recommendations.
The team’s technical paper says the ESP prototype has been validated in 50 test cases.
Their proposal for the project noted that the doctor-to-patient ratio in the Philippines was only 1:80,000 as of 2005, comparing poorly with the 1:20,000 ratio recommended by the World Health Organization.
Doctors and health workers in rural areas lack access to information readily available from experts in cities. An electronic device that can provide expert information will help the doctor make the best decisions, especially in cases of poisoning where time is a critical factor, the UP students said.
Bandojo, Gatapia and Santos are students from Computer Vision and Machine Intelligence Group. Their advisers for the project were professor Prospero Naval and instructor Riza Theresa Batista, both of the Department of Computer Science, and Dr. Alvin Marcelo of the National Tele-health Center of UP Manila.
Gatapia, in an e-mail interview, said the victory was the first for Filipinos in the competition. He said that the award came as a surprise because they did not develop the program with any contest in mind.
The winners acknowledged Dr. N. Panganiban and Dr. L. Cortes-Maramba, authors of the book “National Poison Control Center,” which was a primary source of information. “We are also grateful to the nurses of the Philippine General Hospital for patiently answering our endless queries,” the team said in their paper.